Will the workout boom persist as the pandemic fades?

The sporting goods industry saw unprecedented growth in 2020, but will it persist after the pandemic ends?

September 15, 2021
  • James Cook

Will the workout boom keep booming?

I’ve been running for a few years and it’s the only exercise I’ve ever enjoyed. Since March 2020, it’s also become my secret weapon for coping with the stress of the pandemic. It appears that many others also discovered the joys of jogging in 2020.  According to a Nielsen Sports consumer study, conducted in April 2021…

  • 13% of runners started running in the previous 12 months
  • Most new runners said the pandemic played a role in their decision to run

Runners were just one of many that turned to athletics in 2020. And more workouts meant more sales of workout gear. Sporting goods spending growth skyrocketed in 2020, with revenue at U.S. sporting goods stores rising by 15.3 percent. 

Sporting Goods stores revenue change (2013-2026)

Will those new exercisers keep up with their workouts in the coming years? Well we do know that new runners intend to keep running. 100% of the new runners surveyed by Nielsen say they will continue to run once the pandemic is over.

IBISWorld forecasts an average annual growth of 1.16% for sporting goods revenue through 2026. While not the spike of 2020, it’s a nice change for an industry that had seen shrinking revenues in each of the three years leading up to 2020. 


Hoka One One to open two pop-ups 

What I like about running is that all you really need are decent shoes and the open road. And after a minor injury early on, I learned just how important the cushioning and support of a good pair of running shoes are.

Hoka One One first came to prominence over a decade ago with its oversized soles, kicking off a trend that persists to this day. A subsidiary of Deckers Brands, Hoka One One announced two temporary stores that will open October 1 and continue through the holidays. 

While Hoka shoes are carried at many local and national chains, these pop-ups will give the brand an opportunity to showcase its full line of items, including apparel previously only available online.

  • Flatiron store in New York is ~2,000 square feet
  • Melrose Avenue store in Los Angeles is ~1,000 square feet

The stores will play host to run club meetings, yoga classes and other events. They will feature smart lockers where visitors can secure belongings. They’ve partnered with Volumental to bring 3D foot scanning to help customers pick the right shoe for them. (Check out our interview with Volumental CEO Alper Aydemir.)

(Photo courtsey of Hoka One One)




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MIRROR store-in-stores at 200 Lululemon locations 

Athleisure leader Lululemon continues to benefit from the millions now working and working out from home. The company’s net revenue grew by 61% in Q2 2021.

To keep growing, Lululemon has diversified into more formal clothing. The company also acquired MIRROR in 2020.

The device is literally a mirror, but with an electronic display that streams live and pre-recorded instructor-led workouts. It sells for around $1,500 and also requires a $39 monthly subscription.

With such a price tag, the company clearly understands it can best boost sales by demonstrating the device to customers IRL. To that end, MIRROR plans to have 200 store-in-stores open within Lululemon locations by Black Friday.

(Photo courtsey of Lululemon)


Is the future online or in store? 

With new people now in the exercise habit, hopes are high this trend will remain sticky. Many sporting goods, such as replacement shoes or water bottles, can best be purchased online.  But new items, especially more expensive ones, will continue to require a place to see them in action and a knowledgeable store associate to explain how they work.


Contact James Cook

Americas Director of Research, Retail